Thales Alenia Space begins instrument integration for Europe’s first CO2 monitoring satellite

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MicroCarb, a joint British-French satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide globally, has arrived in the UK for the integration of its instrumentation.

A mission between the UK Space Agency and the French space agency CNES, MicroCarb will be the first European satellite dedicated to measuring atmospheric CO2  across the world.

Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has completed the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of the MicroCarb satellite platform, and is now ready to begin the integration of the dispersive spectrometer delivered to the UK, bringing this important climate mission a step closer to launch in early 2024.

CNES is the prime contractor for the satellite which is built on its Myriade platform, while Airbus Defence and Space provided the instrument. The mission is designed to precisely monitor the Earth’s atmospheric CO2 and detect the changes associated with surface emissions and carbon uptake across cities, forests and oceans worldwide. A special city-scanning mode will allow mapping CO2 distribution in cities, which are responsible for most global emissions.

Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK, said, “I am proud of my team’s achievements and the fact that we have repaid the trust placed in them to lead AIT and launch preparations for Europe’s first carbon monitoring mission. This is the first time that Thales Alenia Space in the UK has worked with CNES, reflecting the agency’s confidence in our teams of highly skilled engineers. I’m looking forward to the next phase of instrument integration, as it is an important part of our capabilities as a UK prime contractor for major space missions.”

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, added, “Over half of the critical measurements on climate change rely on satellite data, which means that the information delivered by MicroCarb will be hugely important. Having more accurate knowledge of how much carbon the world’s forests and oceans absorb will provide the information needed to take decisions on tackling climate change. It’s very exciting to see the MicroCarb satellite arrive in the UK. It’s also a testament to the expertise of the UK scientists and engineers involved and the world-class facilities available at the Harwell Space Cluster.”

MicroCarb’s data will contribute to global efforts to quantify how much carbon is being emitted by natural processes and how much by human activities. This information will help inform decisions on tackling climate change. The UK Space Agency has invested £13.9m (US$17m) in the mission.

Professor Paul Palmer, UK Lead MicroCarb Scientist and NCEO science director based at the University of Edinburgh, said, “Data from MicroCarb will play a crucial role in extending our current ability to verify reductions in global and national emissions of CO2 in response to the demands of the Paris Agreement. Cities are home to half of the world’s population and are therefore at the forefront of the global challenge to reduce emissions of GHGs. The city-scan observing mode of MicroCarb, which can map out atmospheric CO2 over cities the size of London and Paris, will provide new information to help cities implement strategies that support sustainable urban development.”

The MicroCarb satellite will be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, in early 2024, with support from Thales Alenia Space’s French and British teams.

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Dan first joined UKi Media & Events in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As editor, he now produces content for Meteorological Technology International, unearthing the latest technological advances and research methods for the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest meteorological news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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